Editor's Note: The following letter to the editor is in response to Nick Castner's column on leaving small town Nebraska.
Like Nick Castner, I too grew up in a small town. York, Nebraska, is that town with the weird water tower that is painted like a hot air balloon. Most people view it as the last town they will see before getting to Lincoln for Husker Football Saturdays, or the first stop of a long trip to Colorado.
The population of York has dropped from 8067 in 2000 to 7766 in 2010, a loss of 301 people. People don’t want to live in a rural community. But those people don’t know the benefits of living in a small town. I knew everyone in my graduating class, all 100 of them. I had relationships with people 1, 2,3, 4 years older than me. I knew the kids 1,2,3,4 years younger than me.
During my high school years, I talked with classmates about the desire to leave and never come back. I left for college in 2010 and only came back for extended breaks. I saw no value in returning to a town that had little to offer me.
Upon graduating in May 2015, I moved to the metropolis of Indianapolis. Indianapolis is 100 times larger than York with a population of 858,325. I had an unlimited number of activities at my disposal, ranging from food and beer festivals, professional sports teams, college teams, concerts everywhere, comedy clubs and the list goes on.
Why would I want to live in a place where the only source of entertainment is the bowling alley or the movie theater?
The answer is both simple and complex. This town is a community. It is a place where I can walk down the local grocery store aisle and say hello to three or more people. I can attend those Friday Night Light football games in the fall. Or attend those winter basketball games. I can go into the town jewelry store and talk to my best friend’s dad. I can hire a friend from high school to build the house that my future family will move into. It is a place where I can give back because everyone knows my kind-hearted intentions. In a city, a stranger is nobody. In a community, there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet.
I am a product of my small town. This community taught me to give back, not because I have to but because it is the right thing to do. Countless volunteers helped me through my youth. Whether it was Mr. Davis and my youth football team, or Mrs. Suddarth and my 4-H group, or Mr. Barrett and my trap shooting team or Mr. Reed and my bowling team.
Without these volunteers, the youth in this community would have no way to be active or involved in anything.
In the next few weeks, I will be moving back to my small town. I have found a career at the local town bank. While the career is great, it’s the opportunity to give back to my community that most excites me. I want to help with the youth football league because I care about helping youth find their passion. I want to work with the 4-H group because it taught me so many valuable life lessons. I want to help with the high school bowling team because I am passionate about the sport and its continued success.
So while Nick Castner believes his community has no more to offer him, I believe that I have so much more to offer mine. I aspire to set the standard of young professionals moving to rural communities because they have so much knowledge to offer to those communities. And if you ever find yourself driving by York, know that there are people in this community doing everything possible to keep it out of the gutter.